If you’re a fan of Alison Brie (Community) and Chris Pratt (Parks and Recreation), director Nicholas Stoller‘s (Get Him to the Greek, Forgetting Sarah Marshall) The Five-Year Engagement was probably already on your must-watch list. Thankfully, the film looks extremely funny and everything I saw on set tells me that it’s going to be a special film. For those not familiar, Five-Year Engagement “looks at what happens when an engaged couple, Jason Segel and Emily Blunt, keeps getting tripped up on the long walk down the aisle.” The film stars also stars Rhys Ifans, David Paymer, Mimi Kennedy, Jacki Weaver, Jim Piddock, Kevin Hart, Brian Posehn and Mindy Kaling.
During my group interview on set, Brie and Pratt talked about who they play (Blunts sister and Segel’s friend) and how their characters are the complete opposite of Blunt and Segel, the freedom of working with an R rating, how Brie perfected her British accent, and a lot more. Hit the jump to read or listen to the interview
Before going any further, if you haven’t seen the trailer, I’d watch that first.
As usual, I’m offering two ways to get the interview: you can either click here for the audio or the full transcript is below. The Five-Year Engagement opens April 27, 2012.
Alison Brie: A really serious scene with a guy serenading a group of people.
Chris Pratt: Yup. What we’re shooting now is the scene at the first engagement party. You and I haven’t really met yet.
Brie: No, we have not met yet.
You said the first engagement party?
Brie: Uh-oh. This is early in the movie. It’s their engagement party.
Pratt: It’s their engagement party in a movie called The Five Year Engagement.
Brie: So as you can imagine it’s quite a journey. There may be some other parties. There may be some other speeches.
Pratt: Billy Joel might be in the movie.
Brie: There may be a cameo with Billy Joel.
Pratt: No, but there won’t be.
Is the singing what wins your character over?
Brie: No. I think the singing really puts her off. And then, I guess, inevitably yes. What is it about women that they just go right for the guy that totally repulses them.
Pratt: I remember growing up I always saw the pretty girl end up with the loser/asshole, and now I kinda get to be on the other end of that. I get to be the loser/asshole that gets the pretty girl.
Brie: You’re not an asshole. You’re just a loser. You’re just a gross, weird loser.
Pratt: I think every character in this story has a lot of growing up to do, and what’s nice is that it’s over the course of five years. So you get glimpses into their lives and little snap shots, and the audience will be able to fill in the blanks of what’s happened between each moment, because they’re picking up the different moments in these characters’ lives, and our relationship evolves very quickly.
Brie: I also feel like our characters kinda take the biggest journey in the movie, from where you see them at the beginning to where you see them in five years. It really comes a long way. It’s been interesting to shoot it because we’ve been going backwards in time, kind of. So it’s funny doing this scene now and fighting my instinct to be like “Yea Babe! Great Song!” You know what I mean? Because we spent the last two months together just cuddling, you know… On set.
We’re so used to seeing you on Parks And Rec with a beard, did you just decide to shave it for the movie? Was it your decision/their decision?
Pratt: It was their decision. You know I just tend to grow my beard out for Parks and Rec. As an actor it’s always easier to shave or cut your hair for a role, but it’s hard to put fake hair on or grow hair for a role. When you look at pictures of me, the longer my hair is, the longer my facial hair is, that’s just the longer I haven’t gotten a job. The fact that I’m kinda clean-shaven right now is a good sign.
Pratt: Ah, yea. Pretty much the look throughout the film. They make it a little different as I get older, I grow up a little bit and start combing my hair.
From speaking of stuff that’s changed, I obviously hear you’re using the British accent. How have you gone about developing that?
Brie: Well, when they first approached me about the table read, and then they called me back and asked me to do a British accent I had worked a bit with a CD. I had been working with the CD when I got the call, which was like “Oh good, I’ve kinda been working on this already, so great.” And then I actually, embarrassingly rented, or bought/purchased—‘cause I’m like this I’m gonna need—The Devil Wears Prada and just watched Emily’s scenes again and again ‘cause I was like I really wanna sound like Emily. And that became key later so once we started to work on the film, or just a couple weeks before I started working with a dialect coach, Cynthia Blaze in LA. And we would do courses and we had a recording of Emily’s voice, and then when I got here she left and I really have just been working with Emily. Emily’s become on set dialect coach. I think normally working with a dialect you just get your lines, you memorize your lines and it’s really easy to finely tune an accent for those specific lines. But here, so much of it is improv. Not just improv, but collaboration I think. So it’s Nick coming up with stuff, and then you pitching something, and then you guys creating new lines two minutes before you say them. So it’s not all the improv in the moment, but I still just have five minutes to rework it in my head and run it past Emily maybe, and give it a go. So, I’ve been having fun with it.
Pratt: And Emily’s good. She’ll come in and be like “I’m so sorry, but it’s not tomato, it’s tomato.”
Brie: The good thing about Emily, it’s just that Emily is so great about it. She’s so cool and helpful. And that was the whole point about it, that even working with dialect coach we didn’t want to go too far and just sound super British, because they live in America. And I kinda wanted to sound like Emily sounds.
Do you have a lot of interaction with the parents as well?
Brie: Not as much as Emily does. I feel like I’ve had more scenes, we’ve had some good scenes in the hospital with Jackie, and stuff like that. So, minimally. Jason and Emily kind of interact more with everyone’s parents. We kind of have our own story line going on.
Brie: That’s the spoiler alert. We’re the stars of the movie. We have the biggest journey. We really change a lot, yeah.
Pratt: We’re getting paid the most.
Brie: Our trailers are the biggest. Diva City, that’s where I live.
Is there sort of a rivalry between the sisters?
Brie: The funny thing is like, I guess there kind of is. We don’t play it up too much. I have an older sister, so I feel like I can relate a lot…. so you’re kind of just honest with each other, and you’re kinda just put that stuff right out there, and there is kind of a funny through line that developed as we’ve been shooting it where our mother kinda favors me, but Violet is clearly the perfect sister. And Susie as a character is really kind of a mess, it’s definitely the most messy character I’ve ever played. Kind of all over the place, so it’s funny that she’s constantly rewarded by the mother. The sisters really love each other. But there’s always that kind of, I’m sure, underlying competitive thing.
And you get to wear a fascinator. I know what that is.
Brie: I was like “Oh, is that what this is called?” This giant thing.
Pratt: What’s it called?
A fascinator. A hat that goes on the side.
Pratt: It’s doing its job. It’s fascinating.
Have you ever gone to a wedding or engagement party and heard really bad speeches?
Pratt: They’re all pretty bad. I don’t know that I’ve ever gone to one and heard a really great speech. I liked what Pamer and Mimi were doing, the sort of lame rhyme. Super mediocre. I had an instance once where it was my brother’s wedding and my sister, for her gift to my brother, was going to film everything and have it put onto a DVD. It was kind of a low budget wedding, and so they didn’t hire a videographer. My sister took it upon herself to videotape everything, and my nephew, my brother’s son who was nine at the time was there, was like “Um, I just wanna say something,” and he got up and he gave the most adorable, touching speech. He was like “My dad is really happy. I’m very happy for him and Maria, and I think that she’s great. She’s gonna be a great stepmom. I’m just very happy that he’s smiling again,” just like this whole beautiful speech. And then when you cut to my sister’s video, she didn’t realize the camera was on, so she lifted the camera up for the speech, pushed record, which turned the camera off, missed the whole speech, and then turned it back on at the end. So the video is my nephew going “Now may I say a toast?” and then cutting out. Then she immediately cut it to everyone balling. So now the video is just void of the one good speech.
Brie: I have a story, but it’s not sweet. Last year my friend got married and her parents are divorced and they don’t speak. Prior to the wedding she had my dad and I practice and sing “Just The Way You Are” for her father-daughter dance, and it was a surprise for her dad- to be this touching moment for the two of them. So we sang it, and afterwards she came up to me and said that she was dancing with her dad and he was like “Why did you choose this song?” And she said “I don’t know, it just made me think of me and you dad. Isn’t that great?” And he was like “This was your mother and I’s song at our wedding.” So that was an awkward moment.
What do your characters do professionally?
Pratt: I play a chef. Alex is my character and Tom is Jason’s character. Tom and Alex work together in a kitchen. And as Tom decides to follow Emily in her quest for higher education in Michigan, Alex takes over in Tom’s place at the restaurant, and then ends up getting promoted and running this really successful restaurant, which lands him on Top Chef. I kinda become a celebrity chef, and really successful and sort of doing exactly what Tom would be doing if he hadn’t moved away. So I’m kinda living his dream in a way.
Pratt: It’s part of the reason, yea. There’s a lot of things that culminate, but one of the things is sort of seeing what would be his dream trajectory lived out by someone that was inferior to him in the kitchen. And sort of our entire dichotomy is that everything comes easily to us as a couple, versus Tom and Violet who really struggle to make this thing work.
Brie: Even though they’re kind of better people, and they kind of have their shit together more. We fall into a lot of good fortune.
Pratt: I think one of the themes is just sort of if you wait for things to be perfect you’ll just miss out on life. If you just kind of take that leap and have faith that it’ll be alright in the end, often times it is. And at least you take that leap. You can’t see the safety net, but it’s down there somewhere. These guys are balking and stalling and trying to make everything perfect and in the mean time they kind of start ruining their relationship. We fall face first into a pretty great relationship with a good family and great jobs and stuff.
What does your character do?
Brie: You know, they never really discuss what Susie does. I think that she probably works a series of odd jobs in the beginning; walking dogs, and temping, and things like that. And eventually she doesn’t have to work, ‘cause she has a successful husband.
Pratt: But she does work because she has two kids. We end up having two kids.
Brie: Stay at home mom is still a job.
What kind of R-rated scenes do you guys have?
Brie: We have some heavy sex scenes. Full nudity for both of us. Penetration. We wanted an NC-17 rating.
Nick said he’s fascinated with bad sex in movies, so do you guys have any of the bad sex scenes?
Brie: We don’t, but there is bad sex in this movie.
Pratt: There’s bad sex in this movie. If we were to have sex we would probably have amazing sex. Three times a week. They’re having pretty consistent amazing sex. Got her pregnant the first time we did it. Pulled off a dream wedding in two seconds. Everything works out for us.
Getting back to the R rated question…
Brie: It seems more like language to me. With improv you get into some dark places.
Pratt: F-bombs and Jason’s dick. You ADR the word fudge and pixilate Jason’s dick and you’ve actually got a G rated movie.
Are you guys doing any TV takes?
Brie: Yea, we do. I feel like we usually do a pass where Nick’ll come in and say less cursing.
Pratt: I don’t think that they care too much about the rating on this. I think, Nick comes in and says do less cursing because when you’re in the editing room those “fucks” and those “shits” really add up, and eventually it kind of turns you off.
Brie: You don’t want the whole movie to be fucks and shits. There’s other comedy.
Pratt: They’re comedically powerful words, so you just want to make sure you save them.
Brie: Yea, we have worked with kids. We worked with a little girl, Zoe who was four. And we worked with little boys who were two, or almost two.
Pratt: Like one and a half.
Brie: And let me just say that the kids do not like this guy (Pratt).
Pratt: Turns out I am fucking terrible with kids. I don’t do anything wrong. I’m super effusive and I try to charm these kids and they just start fucking freaking out.
Brie: The good news is I look like a really good mom because they’re holding onto me for dear life like “NOOOOOOOO! Save us from him!”
Pratt: We just had to use it. In one of the scenes we were in a church, and the kid wouldn’t stop crying, and they’re trying to soothe him.
Brie: And they’re twins so they’re trying to interchange them, like “Quick! Give me the other one!”
Pratt: Finally I was like just flipping role! Use it! So the kid’s like “AHHHHH!” And I’m like shut up!
Brie: It seemed to be the funniest one. It seemed to be more like real life anyway. You can’t just get your kids to be quiet when you want them to be quiet. Also, Zoe, our daughter, she’s adorable, but she does not like to sit still. I think the most difficult scene we filmed with her was where we just had to lay there and be asleep. And she was just kinda like “Why?” She was like “What if I lay and sleep like this?” And we were like “No, people don’t do that.” But it’s funny to have to explain the why of this job to a four year old. It just doesn’t make any sense to her. “Just lay here for five more minutes. They’re gonna pay you a bunch of money to lie here.”
Pratt: She kept moving.
You guys are both on successful Kable Town shows. This is also a Kable Town movie if I’m not mistaken.
Brie: Yea, yea. It falls under the umbrella.
Pratt: Do you think that’s why we got hired? We have the same boss at some point. There’s like four people that run the whole world.
Are there any perks to being on successful cable town shows?
Pratt: Are there any non-perks?
Brie: You have a great job. You work with amazing people. We’re lucky to have this break and be able to do some film work in between seasons.
Brie: We’re part of a good crowd, good company.
Pratt: And NBC, I don’t know how to word this without pissing them off… they can fire me if they want to…. they’re not like the greatest in terms of rating so it’s not like you have to be pulling the crazy American Idol numbers or they’re going to replace you. They give their smaller shows a chance/room to grow, and that’s why Community and Parks And Rec are shows that people, at least the critics, thought have gotten better and better. Unlike Fox, two episodes and you’re done.
Brie: And I think in that respect we’re able to be a bit more creative. I know that they give a lot of creative freedom to our show runner, Dan Harmon, and I feel like we’re able to push the envelope a little more, which is nice on a network television show… to kinda feel like you can go outta bounds. And that’s all I have to say about that.
For more on the film: